” I was detained for two years in the Syrian Regime’s jails, but I do not have words to describe these places. I used to dream of a colorful world, that would compensate me for all my sorrows, but the social reactions towards the women who survived detention turned out to be very disappointing and ungrateful. Despite all that, I saw myself as a lucky woman, when my family took care of me, and gave me the support that I needed after being released. Many of the [formerly detained] women are despised and considered a disgrace to the family, forced o get married, or kicked out of their homes, been divorced, or even had their children taken away.
A woman who worked in a local NGO came to visit our home, she said that she wanted to help me, and give me a work opportunity. My parents were so happy, I might have a job, when my brothers could not during this hard time. Even the idea of working women was not previously acceptable before I got arrested. I was happy, I felt that, in some way, I made one of my childhood dreams come true. But after two months of walking around with this woman, she told me that I am not capable of working, and my mind is not stable because of the years I spent in jail, and she did not pay me anything at all. I realized I had been used by her, to help her doing some fundraising based on my story to support her organization. That was a terrible shock for me; I could not understand how someone could use a woman who had suffered enough, instead of supporting her. However, this shock was a motivation for me to continue my studies in Business administration, then I applied for a job in a local organization that helps arrested women when they are released. Here I started to value myself as a human who is capable of helping others.
Later I met some of the trainees in Ayny Aynak, who led me to participate in their media workshop and give my life a new start. In the beginning I had zero experience in all the media fields – writing, audio, and video – but during the training I started to feel more comfortable, and I started to trust myself, especially when I started to publish my first articles and materials. I loved this. I loved having the opportunity to deliver my community’s voice, to tell the stories, and share it with the world. Producing media reports, from different genres, and different topics, gave me new knowledge; it enriched my life with new experiences, in addition to making me more aware of my society and their problems.
I started first to work on simple stories, reports about the traditional crafts, foods, small projects… hen I soon wanted to go deeper, with topics that could touch people’s lives and their needs, especially about the crisis we are facing every day! Like the lack of education, deteriorating living conditions, and the disruption of basic services. In addition, one of my main concerns was to tell the stories of other women who survived regimes detention, and how poorly society has treated them. I learned from Ayny Aynak how to observe the changes in people’s lives, and mine too, and find the story to tell. For example, when there was a cease-fire agreement, everything felt almost back to normal, then fear returned for what would come after the regime-Russian shelling!
I will keep working to improve myself, to build me experience and expand my knowledge: to continue my work on humanitarian topics, monitoring violations against women and girls, following the stories of the child workers, who are forced to work to support their families, after losing the father or the family member who previously supported them. I hope I can find my way in journalism, to help the people, to show my solidarity, and raise awareness about how people are still suffering the scourge of war for so many years. I consider my work as a journalist to be a real new beginning for my life; I became productive, and capable of helping others. In the past I used to feel shy to ask my parents for money, so I could not have many things – now I am independent, and capable of supporting myself and helping my family at the same time.
ASML/Syria helped me, and many other women like me. I hope they can do more and more, because many women do not have the opportunity to build themselves up in this society. This is why I consider myself lucky, because I was accepted in the program, and I was a trainee in the website Ayny Aynak for more than six months, now becoming part of the team. I want to thank all my trainers who helped me to achieve this and helped me become who I am now, and rebuild my life.”
Rita Khalil started a 6 months journalism training in Idleb on May 5th 2018, as part of our Women Empowerment programme. She has now published numerous media contents on our platform Ayny Aynak and keeps publishing. You can see all her productions through this link:https://womenofsyria.com/author/rita-khalil/.